Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 15 Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds along the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as the Arab Spring finally came to Israel’s doorsteps and Palestinian refugees tried to exercise their “right of return.” [CLICK HERE FOR SLIDESHOW].
Israeli forces opened fire to prevent crowds of demonstrators from crossing frontier lines on the day referred to as “Nakba,” or the “catastrophe”, when Palestinians mourn the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said in a televised address Sunday that Israel is determined to defend its borders.
Lebanese officials reported that 10 Palestinians died and 112 were wounded as Israeli forces fired at rock-throwing protesters to prevent them from entering the Jewish State from the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras.
A Reuters cameraman said a Palestinian throng overcame the Lebanese army and marched toward the security fence and started throwing stones.
On Monday general strikes were called in Palestinian camps to mourn those killed according to a Fatah commander based in the notorious refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite group Hezbollah, lauded the “courage” of the protesters in a statement also released on Monday:
“We must bow before the courage, the bravery, of those who protested yesterday at Lebanon and Syria’s borders with occupied Palestine, who faced the tyranny of the enemy with bare chests and their heads held high. Your message, loud and clear, to the enemy is that you will liberate your lands, that the fate of this entity (Israel) is demise, and that no initiatives, treaties or borders will protect it. You, the honourable, have given the nakba new meaning.”
Demonstrators in Syria also tried to break through a border fence in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but were beaten back when Israel troops killed four and wounded at least 45.
Syrian leaders condemned Israel’s “criminal activities” while Israeli officials accused Syria of creating the crisis to distract from its own internal turmoil.
An unnamed senior Israeli government called Syria a police state whose people don’t randomly approach the border without the approval of the regime. Netanyahu said in response to the incident on the Golan border:
“This is not a struggle over the 1967 borders, but a challenge to the existence of the State of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be rectified.”
Palestinian medics reported that clashes along the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip led to the death of one demonstrator while wounding 82 others. IDF soldiers claimed they shot a man because he was trying to plant a bomb near the border.
Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that two Israeli naval vessels fired warning shots at a Malaysian ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza near the Rafah border early Monday morning.
All 12 passengers and crew are now safe after Egyptian ships came to their rescue and escorted the “MV Finch” to Al-Arish Port in Egypt. After warning shots were fired in the air by Israeli troops during the encounter – passenger Derek Graham, a humanitarian activist from Ireland, told Israeli troops:
“This is a violation (of international law). We are on a peaceful mission and unarmed.”
In Qalandia up to 1,000 Palestinians hurled rocks and flares at Israeli troops while a hospital in Ramallah said 10 people were admitted with light wounds. Outside Jerusalem more than 100 were injured when soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds of protesters.
“Another Palestinian uprising (Intifadah) is on the way,” the owner of a windshield business told IPS – a man who spent six years in an Israeli prison during the first Intifadah and whose brother is currently serving 17 years for military resistance to the occupation.
One of the masked protestors taking a break from the “frontline” in Qalandia said he would fight the occupiers until the end:
“They want to kick my grandparents out of their home in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and we should just sit idly by? I don’t think so.”